R & J, Expanded Arts' all-male rendition of Shakespeare's classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, will soon be filmed by its adaptor/ director, Joe Calarco, with production scheduled to start in early fall.
Spokesperson Tony Origlio confirmed a June 12 Variety story about the filming and added that the play would be expanded to include nine actors (instead of four), so there'd be no doubling of roles.
Adapter/director Calarco told Playbill On-Line (June 16) he'll add the extra actors because, "The piece is sort of about a mob mentality, and I wanted to create that with more people. Also, since the show is about school, When the boys become the play, they'll go outside. The movie will not be set in one room... I always sort of saw the play as a film, so it's not odd to me to be working on the screenplay."
The Off-Broadway drama marked its 100th performance Apr. 25 -- two days after the Bard's putative birthday. As such, R & J now stands as the second-longest running production of the romantic tragedy ever in New York City.
Spokesperson Origlio said (June 15) R & J will get a London production next season, mounted by two independent British producers, Jane Salberg & Ian Stephenson, and directed again by Joe Calarco. Salberg & Stephenson Ltd., previously produced Marvin's Room and a co production of The Cryptogram. R & J, adapted and directed by Joe Calarco, tells its familiar story through the musing of four students from a repressive boys school who stage the production for their own enjoyment. This Shakespeare adaptation began life at Expanded Arts' Off-Off-Broadway home earlier this season, before transferring to the John Houseman Studio Theatre on 450 W. 42nd St. The show recently won the 1998 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Achievement.
As reported by Variety, the film is being bankrolled by Harry Clein, who said, "When I first saw the play last February, I realized it was the most passionate and understandable Shakespeare I'd ever come across. This was not only a great theatrical experience, but one that could make a very viable film."
Asked about his other projects besides R & J, Calarco told Playbill On-Line he was trying to get his comedy/drama Separate Rooms produced and was also finishing another play. Neither is remotely Shakespearean. "I would not do cross-gender for a long time, if ever again," said Calarco, who stressed that, barring extraordinary circumstances, adapting Shakespeare was just a one-shot deal for him.
For the record, the longest-running production of Romeo and Juliet to grace New York City opened at Henry Miller's Theatre on Jan. 24, 1923, and ran for 161 performances. Jane Cowl starred as Juliet; her Romeo was Rollo Peters (who also designed the scenery). The production was, in fact, the second mounting of the classic of the 1922-23 season, following a less successful go-around starring Ethel Barrymore, with settings by Robert Edmond Jones.
For ticket information for R & J at the John Houseman Studio Theatre, call (212) 239-6200.